Singer/songwriter Willy Mason spent New Year’s Eve 2019 at Signal Corps Recording in Brooklyn. At 11:30 p.m., he, producer Noel Heroux, and sound engineer Rachel Alina completed mixing the songs that would become Mason’s new album, Already Dead. It was a good way to end one decade and usher in a new one.

Then the global pandemic hit.

Mr. Mason spent the lockdown at home on the Island, then took a construction job that he continues to this day. He sometimes jammed with his musical housemates or joined his mother Jemima James and other musicians who traveled to people’s homes and sang at their windows.

Performing last Saturday at the MV Sound Fest. — Ray Ewing

“There were certainly some aspects of the pandemic that I used to my advantage,” he recalls. “Being forced to go within was something that I embraced.”

It would be easy to mistake Already Dead, which will be released on Friday, August 6, as a pandemic project. The lyrics speak of ragged flags, greed, paralysis and states of shock. But those topics were on Mr. Mason’s mind for a while.

“All of the things that were hard about the pandemic didn’t come out of the blue,” he explained. “We were already dealing with things that became really extreme: a broken health care system, inequality, so-called fake news and not knowing what to believe. These issues continue now that we’re open again. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when there’s a new disaster every day. This album deals with a lot of those things. I’m just capturing the feeling of these times.”

The folk and blues-based sounds on Already Dead will be familiar to those who have followed Mr. Mason since the single Oxygen earned him a worldwide reputation in 2004, when he was known as “the 19-year old kid from the Vineyard.” Ballads are familiar territory for him. But a new disillusionment finds expression in lyrics written by a man now 36.

Mr. Mason spent the lockdown at home on the Island. — Ray Ewing

“We’re all dealing with a lot of pain, heartbreak and revelation,” he said.

Mr. Mason has said that a theme in Already Dead is “destruction of one’s mythology.” That could be true of the experimental pop and rock sounds he offers in the album. The new direction originates in what he has learned, heard and experienced since Carry On, his last album, was released in 2012.

“The songs are different in style because, for the last few years, I’ve been playing more in bands,” he said. “I’ve been down at The Ritz with the Edbury All-Stars. That opened up my guitar playing. I was giving guitar lessons and that opened up my melodic palette. I’ve been playing for a dance floor more than I’m used to when I’m touring on the folk circuit. So, a lot of those rhythms were in my head.”

Mr. Mason cites those rhythmic and melodic changes as providing a canvas he needed to bring in Noel Heroux, the musician who co-produced Already Dead.

“Noel has a sonic depth of field,” Mr. Mason said. “He likes creating tone through found and unusual sounds that don’t necessarily fit on a polished pop record. He creates environments that might be unsettling or unfamiliar for people, with the aim of opening up their awareness to having an in-depth experience.”

Mr. Heroux has his own affiliation with the Vineyard that includes a 20-year friendship with Tim Laursen, who has played bass for Mr. Mason. Over the years, he had heard a lot of Mr. Mason’s music.

“I’ve always had respect for Willy,” he said. “He is an untouchable songwriter and voice.”

The impetus to work together began after Mr. Heroux played a 2018 concert on the Island. Mr. Heroux stayed overnight at the house shared by Mr. Mason and Mr. Laursen. The following morning, he heard rough recordings Mr. Mason had been making in his basement studio.

Already Dead will be released on Friday, August 6.

“I heard a strange yearning. He was branching out. I was intrigued,” Mr. Heroux recalled.

The follow-up didn’t come until July 2019 when the two were nudged together by musician Sean Foley, another mutual friend. The collaborators recorded at Peacegate in Vineyard Haven, bringing in local musicians including Jeremy Berlin, Farley Glavin and Steve Tully. Mr. Mason pulled his brother Sam “out from sabbatical” and back into the role of drummer. Mr. Heroux retained some of the naturalistic elements from Mr. Mason’s basement recordings, such as the sound of a squeaky chair during a song featuring just Mr. Mason and his acoustic guitar.

Mr. Heroux speaks of that time with fondness, particularly the night that the duo wound up in the basement of WVVY for a 2 a.m. improvisation; he played drone guitars while Mr. Mason read encyclopedia entries about pine cones and fir trees.

Their spontaneity persisted when audio engineering shifted to Manhattan. While walking through Washington Square Park, they came upon a small marching band. Mr. Heroux convinced the band to learn one of the songs they were recording and the horns can be found on the new album. Mr. Heroux also layered in vocals sung by his partner and musical collaborator, Jessica Zambri. The result is a texture of haunted sounds.

“Hiding sounds is fun and they come out at strange times,” Mr. Heroux said. “I feel that all of Willy’s songs are pretty haunted. I wanted to provide him with some company…some ghosts to keep him company throughout the record.”

Mr. Mason has had a few recent opportunities to play live. He describes the audience energy as being potent, as though people had been waiting for when they could gather again. On August 18, he’ll begin a tour that leads into a month across Europe. He has been building up his immune system, he said, to protect himself as he returns to concerts in small performance spaces.

Mr. Mason has said that he’s trying to give people encouragement as we “work to restore much-needed faith.” One of the places he is finding that is in the Island’s sense of community.

“People are kind of understated,” he said. “The people I find inspiration in are, through their actions, showing the perseverance of love, beauty and creativity. Even though people here also like to keep to themselves, there is a culture of aid and solidarity. That keeps us going, afloat.”

For information Willy Mason’s upcoming tour, visit